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Landlord/Tenant-Summary Process Eviction

Whether you are a Landlord or a Tenant, the facts and rules centered around a summary process eviction are complex and tedious. The process is centered and focused upon certain key dates and periods of times. The following blog will touch upon the main areas of the eviction process. This blog will not focus the information towards the Landlord or Tenant viewpoint, but rather touch on each area in a broad view.

Evictions generally result from nonpayment of rent; no-fault situations (termination of the tenancy); or actions supporting an eviction for fault/cause. The eviction process moves quicker than normal court filings. This is one reason why the eviction process is referred to as a “summary process action”. Because of the short periods of time between steps of the eviction process, it is vital that the Landlord or Tenant understand their rights at each step of the process.

14 Day Notice to Quit

If a Tenant falls behind in paying rent, the first step a Landlord can take is to serve the tenant with a 14-day Notice to Quit. This Notice informs the Tenant that the Landlord has found the Tenant in violation of the tenancy for non—payment and allows the Tenant a 14-day period in which to cure the payment delinquency.

If the Landlord feels as though within the 14-day period the rent has not be fully paid, the next step would be to serve a 30-day Notice to Quit upon the Tenant.

30 Day Notice to Quit

The 30-day Notice to Quit is a crucial point in the eviction process. This Notice informs the Tenant that the Landlord is terminating the tenancy after 30 days. The 30-day Notice to Quit is in actuality a 30-day rent period notice. Therefore the 30-day period may start prior to a rent period beginning but must encompass a full 30 day rent period. For example, if a Landlord were to file a 30-day notice wishing to end the tenancy on July 1, the Landlord would have the Notice served during the last week of June. That way the Notice to Quit would be served prior to the June rent period beginning and would be in effect for a full 30 days prior to the expiration of the June rent period. Obviously, this would work for every month but February. A Landlord must be careful concerning the date of service if the Landlord wishes to evict someone during the February rent period.

The 30-day Notice will provide the Tenant with a lot of information. First, if no 14-day Notice was previously filed and the 30-day Notice is based upon failure to pay rent, the Tenant will have a cure period. If a 14-day Notice had been previously provided to the Tenant, there would be no cure period within the 30-day Notice. Further, it is important that the Landlord allege in the Notice to Quit any and all claims on which the termination is based. Therefore, if the Tenant is being evicted on fault grounds, the Tenant will be put on notice concerning the exact allegations being raised by the Landlord. Both the Tenant and Landlord should review any lease in existence. If the lease contains certain steps concerning ending the tenancy, these steps must be followed or a court likely will find the Landlord has not followed the contractual lease terms necessary to properly end the tenancy and start the summary process portion of the eviction.

In a month to month tenancy or a tenancy-at-will, the 30-day notice can contain no fault grounds for ending the tenancy. In these situations, the 30-day Notice will be utilized by a Landlord to terminate the month to month tenancy or tenancy-at-will purely based upon possession grounds.

Starting the Summary Process Action

After a valid 30-day Notice to Quit has been served and the requisite time has passed, the Landlord can then begin the summary process action within the court system. A Landlord can choose whether to start the summary process action in the District Court or the Housing Court, as both courts have jurisdiction over an eviction proceeding. A summary process complaint/summons form can be obtained from the clerk’s office of either court for $5. On the entry date, the Landlord will have to pay an additional filing fee.

The tenant may be served with the summary process summons and complaint up to thirty days before the case is entered into the court but must be served at least seven days prior to the entry date. The entry date is always a Monday, and the Tenant’s answer date is the Monday after the entry date. The trial date is then scheduled for the Thursday after the answer date, unless the court holds summary process hearings on a different date. For example. The Worcester Housing Court holds summary process hearings on Thursdays but the Dudley Housing Court holds summary process hearings on Mondays.

Tenant’s Answer

The Tenant is supposed to answer the Landlord’s summary process summons and complaint. The Tenant’s answer is due the Monday following the entry date. The Tenant is to state all affirmative defenses to the eviction within the answer. The Tenant may, if appropriate and allowable, file counter claims to the Landlord’s summary process filing. For residential tenancies a Tenant is allowed to raise counterclaims in conjunction with a defense to possession whether either 1. The action has been brought pursuant to a notice to quit for non-payment of rent, or 2. The tenancy has been terminated without fault of the tenant. If the Landlord has successfully terminated the tenancy due to fault of the Tenant, the Tenant is precluded from raising counterclaims in the answer.

The Tenant may also file discovery requests at the time of filing the answer. If the Tenant successfully files the answer and discovery on time and properly serves the Landlord with the discovery requests, the summary process action will be extended an additional two weeks. Discovery requests can thus be a strategic option for a Tenant.

Lake Shore Legal

After the filing of the Tenant’s answer, a court date will normally happen with days, or at the latest within two weeks. Lake Shore Legal has experience representing both Landlords and Tenants during each step of the eviction and summary process action. Our Attorneys can explain your rights and draft the necessary documents to ensure that these rights are protected. Whether you are a Landlord looking to evict a Tenant, or a Tenant facing eviction, contact Lake Shore Legal today. The eviction process is fast paced but very oriented upon procedure, and failure to adhere to the strict procedural guidelines can be fatal to any claim or defense. Contact us today.; (508) 943-7800

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